Border hospitals stretched

Border hospitals stretched

Myanmar virus spike hits medical supplies

N95 masks.
N95 masks.

State-run hospitals in Tak have appealed for donations of medical supplies for protection against Covid-19, saying their stocks are all but exhausted after the first wave of the outbreak and they are now having to treat patients from Myanmar which is now being battered by the pandemic.

The hospitals need N95 masks, surgical masks and personal protective equipment.

The request for donations was made public by Nattagarn Chuenchom, a physician at Mae Sot Hospital.

In her Facebook post, Dr Nattagarn described the hardship and financial burdens faced by state-run hospitals in the Thai-Myanmar border area.

Other supplies which the border hospitals need include waterproof medical gowns, surgical gloves, face shields and sanitisers, according to the doctor.

The hospitals also welcome cash, which along with the supplies, can be donated directly to Mae Sot Hospital, Tha Song Yang Hospital, Mae Ramat Hospital, Phop Phra Hospital, Umphang Hospital, Dr Nattagarn said.

"Now our stocks are running low from the first round of outbreak containment. Our budget is also drying up. We have almost nothing left now," she wrote.

The doctor admitted she could not be sure if her hospital will be able to cope as efficiently as it had previously.

"We're serving as a frontline defence against transmission of disease. But we need to make sure that we won't create a humanitarian crisis at the same time," she said.

Sometimes, Myanmar patients were rushed to the hospital in critical condition from the other side of the border. The hospital cannot turn them away, she said.

And while racing against time to save a patient's life, medical workers need to try their best to maintain strict Covid-19 prevention measures to ensure their humanitarian work will not cause the virus to spread into the country, she said.

Recently, in the middle of the night, security authorities detained 10 illegal migrants, two of whom had a high fever and were sent to the hospital for Covid-19 screening, she said.

In Mae Sot alone there are about 300,000 Thais and 300,000 Myanmar nationals in the border areas, she said.

"The hospital workload here in this border area is two to three times heavier than anywhere else," she said.

The border line from northernmost Tha Song Yang district to southernmost Umphang district stretches more than 600 kilometres, which makes it impossible for security forces to patrol the border around the clock, she said.

Also Sunday, combined forces of police, military and local leaders set up surveillance units to monitor commonly-used border passages in Sai Yok and Thong Pha Phum and Sangkhla Buri districts of the western province of Kanchanaburi bordering Myanmar.

In Kamphaeng Phet, governor Chaowalit Saenguthai said the province is stepping up surveillance of migrant workers who might try to sneak into the country following the easing of lockdown measures. Some are eager to work but want to avoid 14-day quarantine so try to sneak across rather than going through formal channels. The governor stressed that local officials, community leaders and health volunteers would have to be the first line of defence in keeping the province safe.

Meanwhile, social media pictures of Myanmar migrants visiting tourist attractions in Khao Kho district sparked fears among residents that they could spread Covid-19, prompting a senior district official to quell their concerns.

The message, "Today, we take 12 truckloads of Myanmar nationals for a tour of Khao Kho" and pictures of the migrants on pickup trucks were posted to social media by the "Thongchai Khao Kho tour service".

On seeing the post, local people expressed fears authorities were not taking adequate measures to prevent the virus spreading.

They said some of the migrants were seen not wearing face masks.


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